Rome 65 BCE
Valerius stood in the middle of the dirt floor of the arena, waiting for his judgment. Germanus Theodorus Maximus waited beside Gaius Julius Caesar, as they decided what to do with the traveler. "You keep him, Germanus. He will be a nice addition."
"Yes, I will."
A commotion erupted down the tunnel under the stands as several Centurions entered, dragging a ragged, dirty man into the arena, tossing him at Valerius' feet. He knew better than to move to help the man, despite his instinct to do so. Empathy ran deep with him. The new man flipped his hair out of his face, revealing the brightest green eyes Valerius' brown ones had ever seen. The features were young, sprite-like, with a turned up nose and pointed ear tips. Valerius fell instantly in love.
"Who is this interloper?" Caesar shouted.
The Centurion in charge stepped forward and bowed. "Forgive me, your grace, but this man insisted he be seen to join the battles. He says he is Alexander of Egypt."
The young man stood, unbidden, which impressed Valerius. The long raven hair that flowed down Alexander's back made him jealous, as his own crown was mostly smooth from the loss, and the rest shaved for ease in a fight. He'd decided when his farm failed, yet again, that he would take his strong back and muscled chest and go to Rome, seeking the fame and sponsorship of a noble as a gladiator. It seemed Alexander had the same aspirations.
"Well, Alexander of Egypt," shouted Caesar, "You shall be a gladiator as well. Germanus, take them both. Have them train together. Then fight them for the spot in your household. I wish it."
The look in the emperor's eyes was a bit crazed. Valerius gulped a breath, but knelt when he felt the Centurion's hand on his shoulder. He bowed his head and waited. "As you wish, my grace," came the noble's answer.
Valerius found himself hauled to his feet, hands bound before him and then ushered to a wagon. He, however was not allowed in, only tied to the back, to walk behind it which was behind the coach carrying his new master. The new fighter, Alexander, was tied to the other side in a similar fashion, and the caravan was off toward his new home.
Both men were silent the entire way, through the dust and dirt of the dry roads back to the large home on the outskirts of Rome with the sun beating down on their backs. Valerius wasn't as impressed as his master thought he should be. In Macedon, where he came from, he'd seen homes twice and thrice as big. It was very pretty, though, as homes went, with lots of statues and fabric draping everything.
"Boy, take these two to their room, the one I had prepared for the big one with the bald head. They will share the room, eat the same meals, and bathe in the same tub. Show them where they can prepare and practice for their duel. Then find me in my rooms to attend me."
Valerius knew what that meant, that he would use the boy. He had already been told that should he be chosen as Germanus' champion, he would do the using of the strange little man. He couldn't have been taller than the middle of Valerius' chest, with wiry silver hair and a twig-thin body. His wife was the exact opposite, large as a house herself, straight brown hair and had her own "maids" that attended her. They'd had their requisite two children, an heir and a spare, and the fact that the wife had birthed two healthy boys bode well for her survival. She was free to play Amazons all she wanted, as far as her husband was concerned, so long as Germanus had a steady supply of boys and men to have for himself.
Valerius walked into a room that looked fit for a noble. The boy went about opening windows and looking into the washstand bowl. "I'll ask to have water and fruit sent to you, as the master likes, sirs."
"Wait," Valerius called out to the boy. "What is your name, boy?"
"Volpius, sir. I'm a slave here." The boy's face fell. "I serve the master...I was told to serve you as a body slave as well..."
"That will not be necessary, young man. I can serve myself in that fashion." Valerius turned to Alexander.
"Oh, I prefer adult company in my bed, boy. You're safe here." The young man smiled and ran about his business. Valerius looked around the room, taking in the plush nature of the furniture, something he didn't think a noble would waste on a mere fighter. This man wanted his people comfortable, obviously. Alexander lay across the wide bed, the only bed in the room and smiled up at his would-be opponent.
"It seems we have a dilemma. We are to spar, train and live together, then fight to the death for a patron. How...ironic."
"Unfortunately, we will not be able to escape this place. Rome is guarded by few Centurions, but the prison, from what I hear, is deadly. Nothing like where I am from." Valerius sat on a very comfortable chair and propped his feet on an ottoman.
"Where are you from? No, wait; let me guess. Thrace? No, no. Thessalia? Am I correct?" The gleam in Alexander's eyes danced and appeared a bit mischievous.
"No, Argos. I am from near the sea. My farm kept failing. I decided to take a different turn. And here I am."
"Well, I am from Egypt, near Alexandria, for which I am named. My father was Greek, but my mother was from a local city, one which she did not speak of. I have been traveling here for many years, picking up work and shelter along the way. Staying in my home with my father was...not what I wanted." Alexander's eyes lowered and he turned to look out a window at a lush and rich garden, full of brightly colored blooms that fragranced the air.
Valerius ventured to the garden to explore his new home. It was a walled in garden that bordered a dense forest. Escape might be possible, but who would want to? This was what Valerius wanted, to become a gladiator, to fight with honor and receive the accolades of the nobles.
"I don't think we'd last more than a few days if we tried to escape from here," Alexander said, coming up behind Valerius. "Were you thinking of leaving?"
"No, I came here for this."
"What if I kill you?" Alexander's voice was soft and melodious.
"I know that can happen. What if I should kill you?" he asked, turning to the man standing behind him.
"Then I shall have had a most exciting adventure, shant I?" The smile covering Alexander's face was that of a young boy finding his way in the world for the first time, not a man who was trying to secure his place in a household. Valerius shook his head and went into the house again, to find a tub of warm water waiting.
"Excellent, I wanted to bathe. The trip here was a dirty one and I'm rather uncomfortable." Valerius began removing his simple tunic. Alexander made himself comfortable to watch Valerius as he washed his powerful, furry body. His dark, curly body hair, thankfully didn't extend to his back and buttocks, but his thatched chest seemed to give Alexander reason to roll onto his stomach. He folded his arms and rested his head on them, watching intently.
"Are you enjoying my bath, Alexander?" Valerius looked at him as he used a bit of toweling to dry himself.
"It's been some time since my last lover. Do you take men to your bed?" The question was very straight forward, but the meaning behind it was clear. Valerius smiled down at his new roommate.
"As it seems we must share this room, I must at least take you to my bed, dear boy." The setting sun streaming through the window set the room a blaze in gold and scarlet. Valerius strode to the bed and put just one knee on it. He watched Alexander sit up and look at him, gazing into his eyes, and lay back, inviting the big man down onto him. Valerius accepted the invitation and lay on the younger man's chest. Their mouth's met fiercely, fighting for dominance. Alexander let the big man win, opening his mouth to the invasive tongue. Valerius settled between the strong, splayed thighs, loving that the young man dressed in true Greek form with nothing under his tunic.
Valerius sat up and looked at the disheveled man. "You are what my mother would call a slut, fair Alexander."
"Does that mean I enjoy making love?" he asked, with innocent eyes.
"Oh, yes, I believe you like making love to anyone who comes across your threshold, man or woman." Valerius lay beside Alexander and started pulling his garment over his head.
"This is true. I never shove a handsome man from my bed," he stated and pulled Valerius back down to kiss him more.
Valerius pulled back and stated, "You need a bath."
"Can you stand my odor until we're done?" he asked, sucking another mark on the thick, corded neck offered to him.
"I think I can manage."
Hands explored every part of their bodies, feeling scars and soft spots. Alexander rubbed his face over Valerius' furred chest, purring like a cat. Valerius laughed as the young man began humping him like a pup in heat. "Slow down, little man, we have time to play."
"If we have time to play, can we not have one round to ease the ache, then play gentler later?" The gleam of need in Alexander's eyes moved Valerius to reach between them and take both their cocks in his hand to stroke them. Alexander started pulling back. "No, let's really make love..."
"We have no oil, nothing to ease the way. When Volpius comes back, we'll send him for some. Until then, we will have to make do. There's always time for more, young one." He went back to work on the young man's chest. Finding a dusky pink nipple, Valerius latched on and began gently sucking, bringing Alexander's breath fast and heavy on his neck. He reached down and took the younger man's cock and began stroking in time to the licks he doled on the dark little nub. Alexander writhed and moaned, yelping when the set of teeth came down on his nipple and the big hand squeezed his cock.
The orgasm that flowed from Alexander's body, bucking his body and causing him to whimper, covered Valerius' hand with his seed. He brought it to his mouth to lick clean. Alexander pressed a kiss to his mouth. "I taste delicious in your mouth," he purred.
They lay back in each others' arms to rest. The knock was barely audible as Volpius entered the room with a large tray. A little girl, barely past six he'd guess, followed carrying a large jug. "Who's your friend, Volpius?" Alexander asked, stretching.
"This is Damina. Her mother was killed here, so the Master keeps her around. She helps me. She stays with me, I won't hurt her." Volpius put the tray down on a table and the little girl put the jug beside it. Then, quick as a rabbit, she ran to Volpius, throwing her arms around his waist. He hugged her tight. "She's afraid of you."
Valerius sat up and said, "Little one, so fair of skin and firy of hair, you are always safe in this room. You can come here to sleep, or hide, or rest any time. You understand?"
The little girl nodded, not pulling her face from Volpius' folds of cloth. "And make sure you knock before coming in, so we can be dressed next time, yes?" Another little nod. "Good, now, you two go get yourselves glasses of water and we'll be dressed when you get back. We'll all eat together. Volpius?"
Volpius led the girl out, but not before she bestowed her shining blue eyes on them. He stopped at the door. "Yes, sir?"
"Bring us some oil, for our skin, would you please?" The boy nodded, and smiled. Then closed the door after leaving them. "That boy will need to leave here, won't he? He cannot stay as a catamite and I won't let him."
"Boys his age are always indoctrinated. It's tradition as I hear tell in Greece. And don't tell me Macedon is different. Father told me you're all a bunch of barbarians."
"Well, is that so?" Valerius stood from the bed and gathered his clothing to redress before the children returned.
"Oh, really, I didn't listen to him. This is the same man who felt if I wasn't bruised, I wasn't learning. Which is why I wasn't much older than that boy when I left his home."
Alexander reached for the garment that Valerius held out to him, and quickly donned it before the children returned. They all sat together to have a meal of fruit, bread, cheese and wine, water for the little ones. Volpius left Damina sleeping on Valerius' lap while he cleared the dishes, then carried her off to the pallet they shared.
In bed, Alexander was all over Valerius, eventually slicking them both with oil to ride him like a stallion. Valerius knew the entire house had heard him shout, but didn't care. The young man in his lap was all he cared about at the moment. He would worry about the training and the fighting the next day.
In the morning, the two men were shown where their sparring swords and shields were kept, where they could practice in the garden and told how long they had until their duel. Valerius was the first to raise his sword and take practice swings. Alexander watched the man as he pranced around the mock arena, dodging fake blows, generally entertaining the younger man. He watched in awe as the sun glinted off the sweaty bronzed muscles of the large man. He'd stripped off his garments and wore only a linen loincloth, modesty for the little girl who hid behind a flowered shrub to see her new hero.
Alexander was truly beginning to enjoy the look and feel of Valerius' body. Granted, their first coupling was to test him, to see what he was made of. Alexander always believed that one gained the most information about one's enemies through lovemaking. This was not a position he wanted to lose, no matter what he had to do.
Oh, he'd spent a wonderful night in bed with Valerius, strong arms shooing away the bad dreams, Morpheus kept at bay by the great barbarian. The scent coming off the man was not the gamy stench of a crude savage, but the clean, male scent that made him forget the reasons he was there, the reasons that drove him from his father's home and into the intrigues and perils that gave him the many ritual scars on his arms, legs and back.
Alexander lay on a low bench, enjoying the early growing season. He loved the way the warm, breezy days were filled with the scent of new blossoms and fresh grasses and the cool nights were made for holding your dear one tight. He took notice of the way he thought of Valerius as his "dear one". It was mildly disturbing.
"You are a fierce and mighty warrior. I tremble at your feet," he said, mimicking a poet's meter.
"You would do well to get up and join me, little man," Valerius retorted. Alexander was too engrossed watching the rippling biceps and thickly corded legs in their invisible battle. The shade of the tree was the only thing stopping him from getting up to play with his roommate.
"I am far more entertained watching you as you show me all I need to know." Alexander gave him the widest smile he could before rising to bring out the wine jug that seemed never to empty in their room. Volpius watched out for them tirelessly. Alexander wandered out to the clearing again, goblet of wine held loosely. He stood near the shrub where the curious blue eyes peeked out now and then. "My, it is quite warm this day. I'm sure anyone who is smart would come out of hiding and make her way to dip her toes in the fountain."
Valerius turned to Alexander, a confused look on his face. Alexander pointed to the visible red curls behind the tiny green leaves and Valerius smiled. "Yes, I think I need time to cool down, possibly to sit in the fountain."
Valerius strode to the large, stone, stream-fed fountain in the middle of the garden and climbed right in. He sat back against the wall and spread his arms out, sighing in comfort. Alexander smiled when he heard the girlish giggle. "Oh, that looks wonderful. Volpius, come join us! It's lovely!"
Alexander jumped into the water and splashed Valerius. The big man splashed back. Stripping to his loincloth, Volpius leapt into the water and laughed, splashing the two men. A little round face peeked out from behind the bushes. She was wearing the same long, faded red shift dress that dragged a little on the ground that she had the day before and she walked toward the men in the fountain. Braver and braver, she stood by the rim, looking for a way to hoist herself up until two big hands gathered around her body and hauled her into the water.
"My dress!" she shouted and began to reach for it.
"No, no, you keep that on. It'll be fine," Valerius said. "The sun is strong today. You'll dry quickly when we get out."
She began walking around in the water, kicking and splashing, as if she'd never been in a free-standing pool before. Alexander marveled at her bravery, splashing the big men with splayed hands, scooping as much water as she could.
"My, my, such a lovely family you make, don't you?" came the low drawl from behind. Alexander turned and in the doorway stood Germanus, draped in the finest looking toga and wrap he'd seen in the area, save for Caesar. Immediately, Volpius jumped from the fountain and pulled Damina behind him. She hid, praying to her patron Diana for the Master to go easy on them. Alexander immediately knew his choice to stay with Germanus, to fight Valerius for a patron was a mistake. It wasn't the first he'd made in his life and wouldn't be the last. But presently, it was the most important.
"Children, to my rooms. You men should use your time wisely. You only have ten more sunrises until you will duel for the one spot I've saved for my champion. There is only one outcome to the duel, and I have chosen a lovely burial spot for the loser." With a flourish of his hand, he forced the children out of the courtyard and through their room back into the house. Alexander stood from the water and stalked to the bench where his tunic lay.
"I swear, I'm leaving this place and I'm taking those children with me. I will not stay here, not under any circumstances. If he hurts them, I'll kill him myself." Anger seethed in Alexander's eyes, curling his lip into a snarl.
"And where would you go, little man? With that long hair, you could join a brothel. Come, let me brush your sweet locks, Aphrodite..." Valerius reached to touch Alexander's long, straight hair.
"Away from me! Bastard son of a cow! How dare you! I was suitable for your attentions last night, yet now I'm no good but as a whore? Touch me again, and that will be the last thing that part of you ever touches again." Alexander hoped Valerius could see the sincerity in his eyes. He stalked into the house, slamming the door behind him, hoping Valerius would get the meaning.
"A whore, he thinks. Well, let him try and bed me again. He'll get the sharp end of my dagger for his troubles. Touch me, will he? No, I will abscond with the children, away from here, back to my homeland, say they are mine and reclaim my birthright in Egypt."
"You'll need help," came the deep, soft voice from the open doorway. In his rage, Alexander did not hear Valerius enter the room. He stood there quietly, waiting for Alexander to acknowledge him.
"I need nothing from you, good sir," spat Alexander, the title a sneer. "I will be fine. As I said, I was not much older than young Volpius when I started out on my own in the world. I now have twenty-two summers. I think I know what I'm doing."
"I have thirty-two summers. I know better. Remember, the guards of Rome will ensure you never leave the prison alive. Escaping a gladiator duel is akin to a slave running away. And you're stealing two slaves for your journey. Are you sure this is what you want to do? You've barely been here an entire day. You asked me yesterday if I wanted to escape, and I didn't. Why do you want to now?"
"Because I was almost Volpius. My father wanted to sell me to a man. And that man wanted me for the same reasons the Master wants Volpius. You'll be happy to know that the first people I met when I left home were a group of priests who were traveling to the delta of the Nile. I lived with them several years, unhurt. It was when I wanted to be with one of them, I knew I should leave. I could have never defiled a holy man that way, no matter what the man said. When I gave my innocence away, it was a gift, not a duty nor a rape. The boy deserves the same safety. We're leaving before the duel. You may join us, or you may stay here. I'm sure the Master will love you, from both ends."
Valerius remained as calm as he could, trying to ignore the rude comments Alexander made. He waited for Alexander to calm down, then brought the wine jug to the table to pour them both deep cups. "Alexander, please. Drink some wine, calm yourself and we will talk about what to do. If you explode at the Master when you next see him, he will simply have you killed. Or turn you over to the Centurions. Personally, I'd rather be killed outright. Which is it for you?"
The young man flung himself on the bed and covered his face with his hands. He seemed to calm down, but he was still quite young and apparently, unpredictable. Valerius sat on the bed beside him and said, "We should train and exercise. We'll need to be at our best if we're going to take the children from here, aren't we?"
A big hand slid into the long, raven tresses laid out on the bed. "Don't ever say rude things about my hair. My mother asked me not to cut it. My father took all of my hair, wound it around his hand, and cut it with a dull knife. I swear, it took him from midday to sunset."
Valerius looked at Alexander skeptically.
"Well, it felt that way. It was probably only moments. My mother cried and screamed, calling him worse names than I'm sure you've ever called anyone. He beat her, and when I tried to stop him, he hit me so hard, I woke up well after dark. He was passed out from drinking too much wine and my mother was packing a bag. It was mine. She made me leave, telling me it would be better for everyone. I had some of her jewelry, a few coins, but nothing really. She sent me on my way and I have never looked back."
"Have you seen her since that night?" Valerius asked, understanding more and more about his new companion.
"No. I have not been home. Nor have I sent word that I am still alive. I understand her choice, but I don't agree with it."
"Neither do I. Let's wash and get some rest, yes? You look like you could use a nap, and it's close to highest heat out there."
Valerius helped Alexander remove his loincloth and poured water into the basin on the dressing table. He dipped a cloth into the water and began running it over Alexander's body, removing the sweat that beaded on him. He thought about a woman choosing her husband instead of her child, and thought that it made no sense to him. His mother had repeatedly thrown her husband from their home when he had become angry with her and hit her. He never did believe his father had been trampled by the horses and she had spared him and his sister the agony of seeing their father's broken body by setting alight the funeral pyre before they'd returned from the markets. His mother, Anthia, was a very strong woman.
Before laying Alexander down, Valerius took handfuls his thick hair and braided it. He remembered doing so for his sister, Hermia, when she was little. Valerius tied the end with a small leather strip and lay beside the already drowsy young man. He took the slack body into his arms and they dozed lightly in the warm breeze that blew through the open windows.
The crash of ceramic shattering woke both men with a start. Both men looked up the see Volpius looking down in horror at the mess he'd made on the floor. He'd dropped the water pitcher and spilled water on the stone-tiled floor. "I'm so sorry, sirs, please, don't beat me!"
Valerius, mindless of his state of nudity, stood from the bed and stepped over the broken pieces. "It's all right. No harm done. Have you hurt yourself?"
Valerius took a good look at the boy, who was shaking like a leaf in a strong wind. Footsteps coming down the hall alerted them to another imminent visitor. "Boy, get under the bed, hide at the back," Valerius ordered.
"Sir...I..." A heavy hand on his shoulder pushed Volpius under the bed, where he scrambled out of sight. A short, fat man waddled into the room and said, "Where is that bastard slave-boy? Did he drop that jug, man?"
Valerius remembered the man from when he was first brought to the house, but not the man's name. "No, I dropped it. He's off getting us something to eat."
"Are you sure?" asked the man.
"What's your name?" Valerius asked, still trying to place him.
"Cadmus. I am head of the slaves here. Where is that lazy boy?" Cadmus shouted.
"Please, get me another jug of water and one of wine, and some food; my companion and I are ravenous." Alexander rolled onto his back, exposing himself to the servant, who looked away.
"Yes, food for us! Now!!" Alexander shouted. Valerius looked down at Cadmus, his heavy brow lowering, making him look more menacing than he felt. Cadmus gasped and turned to run from the rooms. Volpius slid out from under the bed and made his way out the door to sneak back to work. Valerius picked the largest pieces off the floor and when Cadmus returned with a large tray of food, he said, "While my companion and I are practicing in the courtyard, have someone clean this up. And I'd like for Volpius to attend us with wine and fruit while we practice."
Nodding, Cadmus left the room. "I don't like this, Alexander. I don't like this at all."
"What do you mean?" Alexander stretched his entire body and yawned like the cats that were his country's symbol. He stood and took his braid into his hand, looking it over. "I shall keep this. Excellent weaving job, good sir." He gave Valerius a bow.
"This is very strange. Gladiators aren't kept as guests. We aren't supposed to have attendants. I don't know what this man has in store for us, but I don't like it. Let us duel and sharpen our skills."
Alexander nodded agreement and dressed alongside Valerius. They made their way out to the courtyard and began sparring, using the wooden swords left for them. When they broke to have some watered-wine, they found a pale Volpius waiting in the shade the mid-afternoon sun. Valerius took a good look at him, and then noticed the rust-colored stain on the pale leg.
"Volpius, remove your tunic and let me see you," he said, firmly. The boy sighed heavily and slipped his tunic over his head. Valerius was not surprised to see fresh welts on the boy's back and buttock, and the smear of blood between his cheeks. "Go inside and wash yourself well. Then I want you to rest in our bed. If anyone comes looking for you, I will deal with him. Sleep easy, little boy."
Volpius let the tears fall down his gaunt face, with hazel eyes so large, only outsized by his nose. It only proved to make him more adorable. He walked to Valerius and hugged the man, whispering, "Thank you," and then disappeared into the room.
"You see why we must leave here?" Alexander said.
"Yes, you are right. I haven't seen Damina at all. I hope she is well." As if on cue, the curly-haired little girl ran to Alexander from her hiding place behind her favorite lilac bush and plastered herself to his leg, wrapping her arms around his thigh. She was crying heavily and had begun hiccupping. Alexander lifted her into his arms and held her tight, whispering in Coptic to her. Valerius did not understand until he switched to Greek and told her that she was more beautiful than Aphrodite and more pure than Artemis. She stopped crying and lay limp in his arms.
"Little princess, did the Master hurt you?" Alexander asked her softly. She nodded. "What did he do? Spank you? Whip you?"
"He..." she began crying again, but Volpius appeared at the doorway, having donned his tunic. "He strapped her back and behind, sirs."
Alexander quickly brought the little girl into their room and lay her on her stomach to get at the string ties of her dress. He pulled the garment from her and saw the livid red welts across her pale, smooth skin. "No one should do this to a baby. Boy, bring me an aloe plant, quickly. And hot water and fresh cloths, now!"
Volpius turned and ran from the rooms, a panicked look on his face. Damina had begun to cry again and Alexander soothed her by stroking her hair and singing in what Valerius thought to be Coptic. It turned out to be Nubian. Alexander seemed to have a very soft touch with the girl who quieted down. Volpius returned with the pulpy green plant and Valerius watched in amazement as he sliced off a stem, slit it down the middle with a small knife and spread the thick insides on the girl's tender, reddened skin.
"What is that stuff?" Valerius asked, looking down at the way the angry red welts seemed to fade a bit.
"It's aloe. My mother always rubbed this on my skin if it was burned or cut. Good medicine." Alexander closed Damina's dress and kissed her head. "You see why I want to take them away? No child should live like this. I did, and I will not see these babies treated as I was."
"Agreed. We must form a plan of escape though. We cannot just try and run with two children."
Volpius stamped his foot. "I am not a child! I'm almost a man!"
"Yes," Alexander agreed. "But you are a young man, and not as strong as we as yet. You will be one day, most likely stronger, but at this moment, we are stronger and can run longer distances. Although, I know we cannot run for long with your sister."
"She's not my sister. We're betrothed. The Master ordered it."
"Fine," said Valerius. "Later, after we've had evening meal, we will discuss the means of our escape. You, Volpius, will need to be able to tell us the layout of the city in detail. Can you do that?"
A smile broke out on the boy's face. "I can remember anything in perfect detail. I can draw the city if you like."
"A map? Excellent. Make it so. We will get them out, Alexander. I pledge my life on it."
For four days straight, Valerius insisted to Cadmus that Volpius and Damina attend them only. At night, the children would stay until past dark, falling asleep on a pallet Valerius had insisted be brought in. If the Master wanted to treat them as guests and not slaves, they would take advantage of any and all means to escape.
The more he thought about it, the more Alexander understood why his choice to be a gladiator was a mistake. He had always lived his life as a free spirit, thankful that he lived beyond his childhood. Yet, after meeting Valerius and the children, and being depended upon, he wanted it to continue. And being "infamis", below the law, no more than a common slave, did not appeal to him. The stories he had heard of being a gladiator were greatly exaggerated. He would be nothing more than a trained animal, entertainment for the rich.
By night, he lay in Valerius' arms, exhausted from vigorous lovemaking. He very much preferred to climb astride Valerius' waist, sliding up and down on his massive cock at his own pace. This was easily the largest lover he'd had in his life, and whereas his own member wasn't anything to be ashamed of, he could not compare to the length and girth of his lover's tool. It suited him very well to take it into him.
The men practiced their moves and techniques on each other, fine tuning their fighting styles. Alexander showed Valerius the styles of fighting from Egypt while Valerius instructed Alexander in his "barbarian" heritage. The different strokes of the swords began to blend together and soon, both men could anticipate each other's moves. This was essential if they were going to get into a dangerous fight with the guards surrounding Rome. How would they get out of the city, undetected, with two stolen slaves? Alexander didn't like their odds, but, he reasoned with Valerius, it was better than doing nothing, and having one of them die.
"I love you, you savage," Alexander said as they lay in bed one night.
"Do you?" Valerius asked. "I was sure it was my skills at making your eyes roll back into your head that you enjoyed the most."
Both men laughed and kissed. "I'm serious. You believe me. No one has ever believed me, or believed in me. I am grateful for that."
"Is that why you love me? Because I believe you? Silly reason to love someone. You should love someone because he makes you feel good and you want to do the same for him."
Alexander was quiet a moment, thinking over that information as a strong hand began stroking his back. Then he decided pry from his bedmate more of his background than the man had told as yet. "Have you ever loved anyone?"
"Yes, a woman, actually. I loved her from when we were young. Our parents worked out a marriage agreement. We even played a bit in her father's barn. She had a talented mouth." Valerius sighed.
"Why didn't you marry her?" Alexander asked, sitting up to look into his face in the moonlight.
"I had four summers more than she. I was twenty, I believe. We made love one night, very heavily. She kept begging me to stroke in harder and harder. I injured her and she died. She was the last woman I made love to." His tone was quiet, reflective and mournful.
Valerius was quiet after that and Alexander decided not to question him anymore on the subject of love. If Valerius loved him, he would say so, or not. It didn't matter. So long as the man helped them escape, he could stay or go on. In his heart, Alexander hoped Valerius loved him in return and wanted to make the journey with them, wherever it led them.
Volpius had indeed drawn an accurate map. Valerius sat reading it and found that the house and grounds were just outside the city to the south. Valerius began mapping other things he thought he remembered and Alexander looked on, adding advice where he could. When the realized the had sketched a map leading to the ocean, the men looked at each other. y "Alexander, we can make our way back to my homeland. We can settle there with my family until we can..."
"We can what? Have a failing farm? Or I could sell myself to feed the children. No, if we reach the ocean, we are going to *my* homeland. Every year, the Nile overflows and when it recedes, the rich soil left behind is excellent for farming. My father never cared for ours, but if my mother is still there..."
"Yes, we shall go, all of us. Good thinking, my love," Valerius said, taking Alexander's head in his hand and kissing the full, juicy lips.
"Volpius," Valerius began, "I want you to do something quite dangerous, but it is suited for a little man such as you. Are there any valuables you can steal? Any jewels, any coins, anything? Well, need some money, anything we can get our hands on."
The boy smiled. "Yes, I can do that. The Mistress leaves her jewels about, not caring about them. I can collect a few, if you like. By the time she notices, we will be long gone."
"Good, do that. And then, where can we hide our personal items until we're ready to escape?" Valerius looked around and said, "OK, we will rest tonight. We have our plan."
"What plan?" Alexander broke in. "We do not know when we're leaving, how we'll escape, where we will go first..."
"Did you know where you were going when you left home?" Valerius asked.
Visibly stunned, Alexander sat quietly for long moments. "You are right. The situation will present itself when it presents itself and not before. We must stay alert."
Their moment came during a massive rainstorm. The Master and Mistress had gone into Rome with Volpius as a messenger slave for them. When the storm began, they sent him running back to the house to ensure that Alexander and Valerius would make it to the battle the next day. They quickly ensconced the boy in blankets to warm him from the cold, soaking rain.
"This is our chance, Valerius. We must go tonight, while the Master is gone." The look on Alexander's face was almost enough to rouse Valerius that instant, but his cautious side, the part that had seen three crops fail, prevailed.
"It's too dangerous to go out in this storm. Have you seen the lightning? Have you ever seen a man struck before by Zeus' hand? I have. It is not something I want to have happen to me, or to you, my love. If we are destined to be together, we must act with more caution."
"You will wait for a death, won't you? If we wait, we will be in the arena, and one of us will lie in the dust, bleeding to death. If that is what you wish, then you will be the one to explain to Damina why her future husband cannot sit in a chair on a regular basis." Alexander stalked to the window to watch the rain. "No, I will take the children myself. I'll hit you with something so they think I knocked you out and then I'll take the children. We have to go, tonight. This is the night. This is the sign sent by your Zeus for you to go and find another destiny. Don't you see?"
Alexander turned toward Valerius and a lightning flash illuminated him from behind. To Valerius, Alexander looked like an angel. His savior, the man who would be with him, to see him through this night, and all others afterward, was urging him to go against his gut feeling. "You're right, we must leave. Volpius, get the jewels you've hidden. I saw two swords in the anteroom, on the wall. We will take those for our defense. Where is Damina?"
"Here!" she said, standing on the pallet. She smiled up at Valerius. "I'm ready, Valer," she said, breaking his heart.
"Of course you are, princess. We're ready to go."
Alexander tossed a few extra blankets into the one on the bed and rolled them all up together. He grabbed a few togas, ones that had been given to them to pray in, their new cloaks and sandals and made a pack to wear. Valerius took a large sheet and draped it over Damina, then hoisted the girl into his arms. With the next crash of thunder, they set out down the hall. It was the first time they had been out of the rooms since they arrived in the house, save the courtyard. At the end of the hallway, Valerius stopped them and listened. There were no sounds.
Valerius nodded to Alexander and they moved into the main rooms. Valerius stopped short, seeing the end of their short flight. Cadmus held Volpius by the arm, the sack of jewels in his free hand. "Well, well, well! What have we here! The prize slaves trying to flee?"
Valerius handed Damina back to Alexander and said, "You will let the boy go and we will allow you to live."
The fat, greasy man laughed out loud. "Who do you think you are? I will call the guards and have all of you executed. Or better, you can play house in the prison. Which will it be?" He shook Volpius and then shoved the boy to the floor. Valerius started forward, but Cadmus held his hand up. "Don't come any further, faggot. I know that you two are fucking each other. I swear, you sick evil individuals, you will pay. I will see to it that you are all tortured, hanged, beaten, many painful evil..."
Cadmus' face was overcome with a look of surprise. He began to reach behind him and turned. Protruding from his back was a long dagger, and when the large man fell dead, Volpius stood there, shaking, with blood on his hands. He looked down at his former superior and started to shake. Alexander shielded Damina's face from the sight.
"Son, you did well," Valerius said. "Come, grab the bag and let's go. We have to leave now."
Volpius, entranced at being called "son" snatched the bag from the cold, dead grasp of Cadmus and made his way to the door. He led them to the barn, where the two work horses were still waiting. The work wagon was also in the barn, like a gift of the gods. Valerius smiled.
"Alexander, hitch up the team, we'll take this as far as we can get it and we'll be to safety soon."
Smiling, Alexander put Damina in the back of the wagon and pointed to her for Volpius, who scrambled in beside her. Alexander moved the horses into place while Valerius brought the tack over to him. Soon enough, they were moving out into the night, into the rain and the storm.
On their way, just beyond the border of the city, the storm let up, and the night became illuminated with thousands of stars. "We've been given a gift, my love. Kiss me again and we shall be off to our new life."
Alexander leaned into his lover, kissing his mouth and smiling all the way to his eyes. Valerius kicked the horses into action and they set off into the night together, a family.
Alexander and Valerius walked along the road, their children following behind carrying their small packs. It had been two summers since their daring escape from captivity and they were nearing Alexander's family farm. Volpius had proved to be an excellent trapper and gatherer, finding food for them along the way when Valerius was afraid they would be going to sleep with empty bellies. Yet, they always made sure that Damina had a meal each day.
As they walked down the road toward Alexander's childhood home, the two men felt great trepidation at what they would find, and how they would be received. Alexander's unspoken questions were answered when the front door flew open and his mother stepped out, smile wide across her face. He started moving toward her quickly, but Valerius held back with the children, waiting to see everything unfold.
"Mama!" Alexander called out. She opened her arms to take hold of him and he swung her about off her feet.
"Oh, Alex, my sweet baby, my Alex, you're home," she crooned over and over, bestowing kisses all over his face. Alexander looked down at her and found it amusing that he was finally so much taller than she. Alexander was happy to hear his birth tongue of Coptic and fell back into the language easily.
"Mama, where is Papa?" he asked, looking around warily.
"He's gone, my sweet. I'm sorry. The horses got out of control...I couldn't stop them..." She looked away from him, trying to appear saddened, but Alexander knew better.
"You are alone? You work the farm alone?" he asked.
"Yes, I do. It is much smaller, but I do what I can. Are you here to help me?" she asked.
"Yes, Mama, if you'll let us." He turned to Valerius and the children, beckoning them closer. "Mama, Valerius is from Macedon in Greece, like the great Alexander was, so he will understand you. But the children only speak Latin. We must teach them to speak with us."
Valerius, with Damina in his arms and Volpius by his side, stood before the woman who smiled up at him.
"Mama, this is my lover, Valerius," he said in Greek.
"Hello, ma'am," Valerius said quietly. She smiled and nodded.
"Mama, this is Damina and Volpius. They are slaves, stolen from the Master who wanted me to fight Valerius to be his gladiator. We are all criminals now, who ran away from Rome. I don't know if you want us to stay here or not." He looked down at her, his brow heavy. Her face fell a bit.
"You stole slaves? But why?"
Alexander straightened his spine. "I had to. He was beating the children. And he would rape the boy." Volpius turned and pressed his face into Valerius' back.
"Oh, but...I thought that you..." She looked up at her son.
"I only make love to men, not children, Mama."
"I'm sorry, my son, yes. Please, don't be angry, you've just arrived..." She pleaded, grasping at her son's clothing, beginning to cry.
"Mama, stop, I'm not angry. Please, calm down." He reached out and wiped the tears from her cheeks and kissed her forehead.
"Valerius, children, this is my mother, Chione. My father had renamed her Chloe when she married him, but I never heard her use that name." Valerius and Volpius bowed to the woman. She bowed back.
"I am pleased to meet you all, and welcome you into my home," she said. Alexander translated into Latin for the children. The both smiled. "We should go indoors. You all look exhausted. Alexander, you can help your family settle in. The house isn't any bigger since you left, but I'm sure you men can remedy that soon enough." She smiled and turned to enter the house.
Volpius looked up at Alexander and asked, "Will you teach us to talk to your mother?"
"Yes, you will need to speak like us if you are going to stay here with us." He smiled at the boy, who sighed in relief. Chione turned and led the way into the house with her family following. Alexander was finally happy to close himself inside this home for the first time in his life.
Alexander stepped out into the bright sunlight of the morning, looking for his lover. Valerius had taken the children to the barn to see to the animals' breakfast. He walked in and Damina ran toward him with her arms out. "Papa!" she shouted in perfect Coptic. She proved to be highly adept in learning both Coptic and Greek. Volpius learned Greek easily enough but the some of the Coptic eluded him.
Alexander scooped the little girl up and hugged her. "Are you taking care of the oxen and horses with Valer, baby?"
"Yes, Papa. Valer is teaching us well. Aren't you?"
Valerius turned and smiled. "Yes, we're getting ready to plow and plant. Will you help?"
Alexander kissed his lover's lips gently. "I want to help Mama in the house. Besides, I need to finish a certain little lady's room so that she may have privacy, eh? She's much too old to be sleeping with her grandmother, eh?"
Damina kissed his cheek. "My own room!" She smiled and then squirmed to the ground and chased after Volpius who ran out of the barn.
Alexander slipped into Valerius' arms and squeezed tight. "Valer, I'm so glad we left, we saved them and came home."
"Yes, this was a good idea. Your mother is the loveliest lady. I'm glad we've fixed her house and started planting the whole farm again. She took care of a good bit, but this farm...is more rich and fertile than anything I had ever seen in Macedon. I can grow here."
"My great husband," Alexander said, looking into Valerius' eyes.
"Strange, I was about to say the same thing."
They kissed and followed their children back to their house.